The new social investment platform allows users to subscribe to a creator’s financial feed and build an investment portfolio that mimics that particular individual’s investment strategy. And as Follow’s creator network grows, users can subscribe to additional creators to better diversify their portfolios.
Social investing is not a new concept. Coinbase, Robinhood, eToro, Shares and Public.com are all doing it, going after some 50 million people eager to invest in retail, according to Follow CEO Manning Field.
“The size of the market is huge,” he told australiabusinessblog.com. “Our biggest competitor is inertia. There are 57% of people who don’t put money in the market. We are not stealing market share from any of them, but instead meeting new people and bringing them into the game.”
The genesis of Follow is part Atomic incubator and Field, who watched his kids interact with social media. Field has a background in finance, most recently as COO of Acorns and CEO of Acorns regulated entities. He also worked at JP Morgan Chase, where he led product development for Chase’s retail and card business, creating cards such as Chase Sapphire.
“I looked at my kids’ way of interacting with the world, especially social media and influencers,” Field said. “It became very intriguing to me to see if you can build a business around influencers in financial services, particularly in investments.”
He found that there were some technological and regulatory hurdles to social investing, which is why he believes not many have been successful. However, he “felt it was a problem worth solving” if it helped invest in a new segment of younger people.
Field left Acorns in 2021 to start Follow with co-founders Benjamin Rapaport, Miles Cole and Danny Evens, who co-founded the company at Atomic, where he also serves as head of capital markets.
Today, they officially launch the company with a group of 25 influencers, whom the company calls “Leaders,” after raising $9 million in new funding with backing from Atomic, Uncork Capital, and Vera Equity. The Leaders usually have a large number of followers on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.
Follow users pay a monthly subscription set by the Leaders, which currently ranges from $1.99 to $19.99, and then benefit from exclusive content and trade execution of their favorite influencer’s investment portfolio within their own Follow Registered Investment Advisor investment accounts using the feature called SuperFollow.
From then on, the portfolio syncs in seconds whenever there are new moves from the influencer. The company will make money from those subscriptions, but Field said most of the revenue will go to the creator.
The company’s proprietary review process evaluates the leaders’ investment strategies through their broker data and checks their history of responsible social media behavior to ensure their social posts align with their investment activity. In addition to the 25 Leaders, Field says 40 more are in the pipeline.
One of the ways Field says Follow sets itself apart from other social investing platforms is that it is an investment advisor and can claim to be the “first social investment platform to automate copy trades for US stocks to US clients”. He qualifies this because other companies, such as eToro, automate trades, but for cryptocurrencies and outside the US
Field will use the new capital for product development and additional hiring. With the launch of the platform today, he expects to see where they got it right and where they got it wrong when analyzing the data.
He said now is the right time for Follow, where two years ago the influencer segment was not big enough. However, due to the global pandemic and supported by government incentives, fintech influencers have built a large audience.
“We watched young people get hurt and make mistakes, so it was urgent for me to get Follow out there,” he added. “When the markets are low, it’s a good time to start. The shares are now on sale, so you can just start chipping.